Child Victims of the First World War
Photographs by Vova PomortzeffWhile speaking about the losses in the First World War, we should not forget children, who died far in the rear due to the bad health conditions and food shortages. Infant and child mortality increased significantly during the war years in all European countries. The most dramatic situation was in Italy, where child mortality was one of the highest in Europe even before the war. In the beginning of the 20th century, in average two hundreds Italian children under five died per every thousand newborns, almost every fifth one of them. The First World War had doubled the mortality rate in Italy. Especially tragic was the last year of war, when infant and child mortality was over 45 percent. Altogether 290,000 of Italian children under five died in 1918, while only 655,000 babies were born. This is partly due to the outbreak of Spanish influenza, as the mortality rate rose to a level that had not been experienced for several decades. Totally more than a million children under five died in Italy during four years of war. In comparison, in the same time 650,000 of Italian soldiers were killed on the fronts of the First World War. The children of wartime continued to die even in the early post-war years, because of their poor health, although infant and child mortality statistics in Italy returned to the pre-war figures already in 1920. Today, thousands and thousands children's graves at the Italian cemeteries commemorate these little victims of the First World War. Some of the graves are decorated with modern toys, because Italian children traditionally bring their old toys to the cemeteries to put them next to these hundred-year-old resting places. It's believed, dead children could play with them in the other world. Photographer Vova Pomortzeff has found these impressive children's graves at the Campo Verano, the largest Catholic cemetery in Rome.
1. Burial place of 19-month-old girl Assunta Gazzella, who was born on June 5, 1918, and died on January 29, 1920.
2. Burial place of a boy, who was born during the First World War and died on February 6, 1920. The name of the boy is hidden behind the toys and the photographer decided not to touch them to read the name.
3. Burial place of 17-month-old girl Francesca Carletti, who was born in autumn 1918 and died on February 20, 1920.
4. Burial place of four-year-old boy Alfredo Masci, who was born on March 3, 1913, and died on August 12, 1917. You can see dead bodies depicted in some gravestones. The children buried behind had too short lives and obviously their parents managed to take the first and also the last photographs of their children when they died already.
5. Burial place of two children who was born during the First World War and died in 1920 and 1924. The names of the children are hidden behind the toy and the photographer decided not to touch them to read the names.
6. Burial place of four-year-old boy Mario Trimellini, who was born on March 2, 1915, and died on January 16, 1920.
7. Burial place of three-year-old girl Marcella Colombi, who was born on August 18, 1912, and died on July 1, 1916.
8. Burial place of 15-month-old boy Silvestro Cascini, who was born on October 20, 1915, and died on February 7, 1917.
9. Burial place of 23-month-old boy Cesare Matteucci, who was born on January 11, 1918, and died on December 29, 1920.
10. Burial place of three-year boy Giovan Battista Pugliese, who was born on June 6, 1913, in San Paolo, Brazil, and died in Rome on January 17, 1917.
11. Burial place of 17-month-old boy Aldo Valdroni, who was born in summer 1915 and died on December 5, 1916.
12. Burial place of 13-month-old boy Renato Anzellotti, who was born on September 27, 1915, and died on November 15, 1916.
13. Burial place of an unknown baby, who died during the First World War, and his epitaph is completely unreadable now.
The photographs of this feature were shot in October 2014 at the Campo Verano in Rome, Italy.
Copyright © 2014 Vova Pomortzeff